Go Big or Go Home!

My New Student Partnership

As the first full month of the school year comes to a close, the partnerships in my classroom are flourishing, and my students continue to teach me and help me grow.   We have spent much time building our relationship and creating a positive class environment that challenges us, but also supports us so we can be brave and take a risk.  It was my students who encouraged me to post my first blog “The Game Changer”.  It is these same students who are the inspiration for this blog: “Go Big or Go Home!”

As part of our relationship building, my students write affirmations during the first month of school.  I asked students to tell me two or three of their most important values and explain why they are important to them.  As I read about the things they value most and why they are important to them, I was moved and inspired by their candor and their wisdom.  The students focused on having compassion for others, and making a connection with and having a positive impact on the world. They also talked about facing fears and pushing yourself beyond your comfort range. They summarized with words like “Go Big or Go Home!” and “Be brave and take a risk and then you can learn new things”.  Their communications to me have been a big focus of my reflections this month.  The focus on being brave, going big, taking risks; however is not always easy for me.

Here’s my confession:  I am a shy introvert.  I spend a lot of time “in my head” and I like familiar routines.  If I do decide to venture into unfamiliar territory, I like to plan my journey.  New situations with unfamiliar people can be difficult for me.  After reflecting on my student affirmations, I realized however, that with my reinvented passion for learning through partnerships, I have become empowered.  In a lot of ways, I feel like the world has opened up for me a bit.  Maybe I can “Go Big”. So the question arose: What does “Going Big” look like for me?

New Professional Partnerships

In addition to developing new partnerships with my new students this school year, I have started two new collaborations that will definitely be big “Game Changers”.  In the spirit of being brave and modeling what I am encouraging in the classroom, I have reached out to two professionals: an educator and a scientist turned entrepreneur.  Both of the initial conversations were the kinds of experiences that leave you saying WOW that person is amazing; I could learn so much from him/her. In those conversations you feel understood, lifted, inspired, and challenged.  You leave those conversations excited to reflect and begin learning.  You want those people as partners.

My new partnerships are beginning.  I am even more excited to get up and begin a new day of learning. One thing that both partnerships have in common, what makes them so energizing and terrifying at the same time, is that that they are going to stretch me beyond my comfort zone.  I am going to have to be brave and “Go Big”.  According to my students and my new partners, the best way to do that is to set specific goals, but then be open to all possibilities because I never know what great opportunities and connections lie just around the corner.

This blog is a platform for me to articulate my goal of impacting education by extending the classroom beyond our four walls as well as  allowing my new partners and others into our world.  For the students and I this means finding new ways for us to collaborate as a class and share our experiences with the world.  We are going to work with one of my new partners on using video as the platform for extending our classroom, collaborating with others to communicate and grow our learning, and to inspire others to extend their own classrooms through the use of technology. For me as a professional, this means finding ways to share what my focus has been since the original “Game Changer : to continue to refine and share the “thinking products” that have had such a tremendous impact on students acquiring deep understanding of content and communicating sophisticated thinking.  My goal is to work with my other partner to find ways to share my “Thinking Products” and Constructing Explanations and Engaing in Argument from Evidence Practices (NGSS) around the Patterns of Organization work with others through presentations at conferences, submissions of writing to publications, and the use of technology.

With my emphasis on learning with my students, being brave, and setting goals to “Go Big”, I hope that this journey will inspire others.  I know the students and I will learn so much through our shared experience, reflection and collaborations with others beyond our four walls. My new partnerships with my students and my amazing new collaborators will be a celebration of learning. I’m not sure of our path, but I will be brave. I am going to let go and trust my partnerships and these broad goals for direction.  So the shy introvert is walking down an unfamiliar path, but I trust my partners.  That trust always leads to the best learning.

How will you and your students “Go Big” this year?  We would love to hear about it and collaborate with you.  Contact us on Twitter at @tdishelton.

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